Friday, August 7, 2015

Welcome to America

We have landed in D.C.!  What a blessing it was to serve Jesus on this trip.

If you might be interested in joining me next summer, you can let me know now. It only takes about 10 seconds...who knows...your life may be changed forever:
Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Day 7 - And you are worried about a lion...

Even though we are in Ethiopia, we stay up on the news...a little.  I'm sure that Jeff is the most plugged in when it comes to knowing what is happening in the world while we are here, but we have had pretty good Internet this year.  There seems to be a lot of news about a man in America killing a lion in Zimbabwe.  Do you know where Zimbabwe is?  Most people would probably say Africa, but they couldn't point it out on a map.  However, people around the world are getting so bent out of shape because a lion was killed.  I'm sure there are some pretty poor circumstances that surrounded the killing of Cecil the Lion, but let me tell you something that you really should be hashtagging and spending time and money getting outraged about...

I want to tell you two quick stories that may move you or may make you sick to your stomach.  So, this post has a warning, as it may be a little too graphic for some readers.  

Story #1

There was a young man who lived in the countryside of Ethiopia.  Both of his parents were blind and they lived in a monastery.  He was kicked out of his home at the age of 15 because he fell in love with Jesus.  In fact, he was put into jail for three days with no food or water because he was proclaiming to be a Christian.  Finally, the people at the monastery believed he was possessed and drove him far away from home.  However, because his was unclean according to them, he wasn't allowed to ride IN the van, but instead, he was put ON the van...very similar to how you would transport sheep.  It may have been fitting as he was just wearing a sheep coat (the skin of a sheep that is dried out and then worn to be kept warm).  This man found his way into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he began to beg for food or money.  However, he was being made fun of every day because of his clothes.  When it rained, he would smell really bad because the sheep skin would get wet.  He was being threatened daily because he kept sharing his faith with people.  Finally, someone suggested that he go to another part of the city where he could eat.  This was the time that he was introduced to Korah.

Korah is an area in Addis Ababa that is home to 120,000 people in 1.5 square kilometers.  That is about 0.5 square miles, which is about an 1/8 of the Newark, Illinois boundaries.  Newark has a population of 1,000 people.  So, basically, this area of the city is packed with people, living on top of each other.  This is home to people that have leprosy, HIV, TB, and basic starvation.  This is the poorest of poor areas.  This young man decided to make this his home.  Each day, he would go out into the trash dump and wait for a truck to bring in the garbage.  As a truck would back up, about 2,000 kids would sit with great anticipation for it's contents.  As the door would swing open and the garbage would slide out of the truck, the kids would go into a frenzy of digging through everything.  Usually, there would be a fist fight for about 3 minutes with the kids because they wanted control of their bags.  Once that was over, everyone would start digging.  They would rip through bags and look for food to eat, wiping away the used bandages and soiled toilet paper, and brush off the maggots so that they could eat the old banana that was thrown away at the Hilton.

This young man didn't have shoes and he wore the same clothes day after day after day.  He recalls a time when a needle from the hospital went through his foot.  He would just pull it out and continue with his work.  After his day of scrounging for food or any other possible valuables, he would start going house to house and sharing all about Jesus.  He told me that even though he didn't have much to eat, he was happy because he had the Spirit of Jesus living in him.  One time a person punched him extremely hard in the face.  Because he didn't weigh too much, he fell to the ground.  However, he got right back up and smiled and said, that's OK, I still love you.  

At night, this young man would position himself in the middle of one of the big piles of garbage and cover himself with as many plastic bottles as he was able to gather.  He was scared that he was going to be attacked by a hyena.  This lifestyle lasted for 12 years!  During that time, many people were giving their lives to Jesus.  That was an encouragement to him, but he still kept asking Jesus if it was OK for everything to be over so he could go home in Heaven.  However, as he recalls it, the Spirit would bring him to his feet and he would continue to tell people about Jesus.  

When he could, he would sneak into the local church and read the scripture.  He would memorize verses and then when he was digging through the garbage with his friends or with new people, he would ask them if he could tell them about some words that he had memorized.  

Eventually, he gathered about 200 people in one spot and formed a church in this community.  Now, there are several churches there, with one of them being the Korah Church that I had the privilege to preach in on Sunday.  

This man learned English and started connecting with Americans and used those connections to help the church grow more and more and to use those connections to support the people of Korah.

Who is the man of Story #1...Bissy.  He is our translator and our friend.  Bissy has been to 40+ states in the United States and has spent time in Newark at my home.  

Can you believe it?  Can you believe that someone would have to go through all of that?  Do you know that thousands of kids are rummaging through the garbage right now.  They want to find that valuable empty plastic bottle that they can possibly sell to the recycling place.  Or they could find those three bunches of bananas that were old at the Sheraton Hotel that were in the room for President Obama a week ago Sunday and they will take them and try and sell them on the corner to unexpecting customers.  

Story #2

Same location, but current day.  Located less than a football length away from the actual garbage dump, a man and his wife have set up their home, which consists of random tarps that they have gathered, along with flattened out boxes.  They had some mud shoved in some of the corners to make the house a little stronger.  Inside the home, which was about 10'x12' tops, was a mattress that they slept on and not much more.  The man of the home, I'm guessing in his late 50's, was partially blind.  His job was to beg for food and maybe get something in the dump.  His wife, about the same age or older (tough to tell in Ethiopia due to the life they live), was blind in both eyes and couldn't do much to help in their food situation, with the exception of begging.  If this wasn't enough, they are in constant terror because they are squatters.  You see, most of the land that these 120,000 people live on is considered property of the Ethiopian Government.  Because it is their property and not the poorest of the poor's property, they will occasionally bring large Caterpillar tractors and bulldoze all of the homes down.  This will destroy anything that they had gathered up or have been able to purchase.  For people like these two, it could mean their lives.  Just recently, over 200 families had their homes destroyed.  They were given a warning, but the people didn't move out because they didn't have anywhere to go...this is their only place of survival.

You see, we worry about lions. color-changing dresses, or even deflated balls, but we don't give much thought about people like these two.  We don't want to.  If you are like me, I bet that you have turned the channel when you see those commercials come on that are talking about the starving children.  We don't want to see it.  As I was walking in and out of these homes, I thought to myself...I don't want to be here.  I don't want to smell this and I don't know if I can go into one more home that has such a bad situation.  I don't want to think about the needles going through their feet, the rain coming into their tarped homes and getting them soaked every night, and the fact that their only food options consist of brushing off the other garbage to eat what they found, or getting a random item that you can sell and buy a small portion of food.  I don't want to face the fact that if they want to use the restroom, they just go wherever they happen to be at outside.  I don't want to think about someone's life possessions being pushed away by large bulldozers.  I don't want to...but I do.  I have seen it with my own eyes and I am allowing you to see it through our lens.  

We can make a difference though.  Bissy spent five years preaching the Gospel to a man named Tesfaye (tess-a-fye).  Finally, he broke down and gave his life to Jesus.  Now, he has received an education and people refer to him as Pastor Tesfaye.  He, along with all of the other Pastors, spend countless hours every week serving the people of Korah.  They have a fantastic program where they provide food and education for families in Korah for only $50/month.  I think that I spent more than $50 at the BP for random snacks for our family last month.  I have seen first hand that this money is going completely to these families.  In addition to providing them monthly food, they start working with them on building a self-sustaining lifestyle that each family can feel great about.  They get the kids and parents out of the dump.  While they are providing food and practical education, they continuously teach and train them in the scriptures.  You can become a sponsor today if you would like.  Just follow this link:  Jeff just informed me that he and his wife Melinda are going to be sponsoring this couple that I talked about in Story #2!  Praise Jesus!

Perhaps you want to join me on an adventure like this.  Ethiopia is an awesome place and it is nothing like you can imagine.  I hope that I have been able to bring you along on this journey through my blog and I hope that you can know that all of these things, whether small or large, were done so that the Lord could get all the glory...we just got the opportunity to be His instruments this time.

If you would like more information or maybe you are thinking a trip like this might be something you would want to do, let me know.  There is no obligation, but it helps me to start planning for next summer.  You can click this link and fill out a 10 second form:

Yohannes learning how to use the binoculars 
This has got to be quality milk

Handing out bread to the homeless

Visiting World Vision.  After being at their headquarters, I am beyond impressed by their work!  Grandma Sue and Jim have been sponsoring a child for a while.  They contacted her and said the child didn't need a sponsor any more because they got a good paying job and asked if she would be willing to take on another child.  She agreed and has been sponsoring a child in Ethiopia since.  We were able to take donations for the child and she will be seeing her child next time we come.  The child lives a good 2 1/2 hours north of the city.

They took a picture of Sue for the child.  Good wave Grandma :-)

We stopped at Lucy for lunch.

This is the museum where the bones of Lucy lay.  If you want more information, feel free to Google away ;-)

This is a family picture that Allie gave to Jacob's birthmom.  This is proof Allie that we delivered it.  

Coffee ceremony

A letter from Jacob's mom, written in English

Great picture of Shari enjoying her first full cup of coffee.  Jeff said that it was amazing coffee and very strong.

Praying a blessing on the family

Welcome to Korah.  These are grains that people are selling.
 I'm going to let some of these pictures tell their own story instead of writing on every one.

OK, I'm going to chime in here.  We were doing home visits and needed to navigate down this hill, jump over the mud river, through the muddy ground, and then back up a hill on the other side.  These three pictures capture this small adventure.

This is the simple part.

If the little kids can do it, so can I

Shari's response after fully stepping into the mud with both feet.  Pastor in the background thinks this is pretty funny.  They would say that this is, "comedy". 

These are the containers that this particular family is searching for so that they could possibly make money off of recycling them.  Pastor thought that they sell them to a Chinese company and they melt them to make jeans.

I had the opportunity to pray for each family and pray that they would receive a sponsorship for their basic needs.

A couple of years ago, one of the teams that I led spent a few hours putting new tarps on top of these homes to help with preparation for the rainy season.

We were warned to not lean back against this wall as it was wet mud...we aren't sure how it holds up in the rain.

Every bit of the garbage is sorted out

Coming home after a long day's work in the trash dump.

Giving away bread

Jeff held more hands this week than in his entire life.  He has been invaluable on this trip!


A family of 5 looking for sponsorship.  

The government makes it quite easy to receive a small number of channels

Dylan's friend from church on Sunday...she recognized him.

We are all good.  Yohannes is finally getting out of the shower.  Yohannes takes about 700 minute showers, but we are ok with that because he is use to having very cold showers.

This was a new restaurant for me.  They actually have American burgers.  They closed at 6:00 PM (who closes at 6 PM, especially when you are a restaurant?).  Anyway, we got there at 6:19 PM.  They decided to serve us.  In fact, another volunteer group came in about 6:45 PM and they served them too.  TIA

BBQ burger and fries